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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 31
Conversion therapy ban goes to City Council August 1

Unanimous support in committee
Section One
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Conversion therapy ban goes to City Council August 1

Unanimous support in committee

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Seattle City Council committee unanimously passed a measure that would ban conversion therapy for minors and sent it on to the full council in a July 26 hearing.

Labeled Resolution 118746, the measure was written by Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez. Once passed by the full council, the resolution would create civil penalties for practicing conversion therapy on minors within Seattle city limits.

It would be enforced by the City's Office of Civil Rights, either on the complaint of someone subjected to conversion therapy or through an investigation directed by the Office of Civil Rights.

According to Gonzalez, the measure would apply to any licensed therapist, even if they claim to be faith based.

The City Council is expected to pass the legislation at its August 1 meeting. After that, it would go into effect in 60 days.

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold's Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee passed the resolution with strong support from members Herbold, Mike O'Brien, and Kshama Sawant.

'A ban on conversion therapy for minors is important to protect Seattle's LGBTQ youth and ensure they have the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and affirming environment,' Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Monisha Harrell said in an email to supporters after the committee action.

'LGBTQ youth whose identities are rejected by their families are three times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, six times more likely to suffer from severe depression, and eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their accepted peers.'

Harrell worked with Gonzalez to craft the language of the resolution.

At a press conference before the committee hearing, Gonzalez said she hoped Seattle's action would encourage other cities to pass similar legislation.

She wrote the resolution 'in response to calls from the LGBTQ community,' Gonzalez said, stressing her support 'for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.'

'I want to thank the LGBTQ advocates who reached out to my office,' she added. 'I'm proud to be the prime sponsor of this resolution.'

At the press conference, therapist Ann Lazaroff said she often treats patients who have experienced conversion therapy, which she labeled 'a highly unethical practice.'

'These patients exhibit the same symptoms as survivors of sexual abuse, or PTSD,' she noted.

Transgender activists Marsha Botzer of the Ingersoll Center and Danni Askini of Gender Justice League also spoke at the press conference.

Askini revealed that she herself was a survivor of attempts to change her gender identity and expression at the age of 13.

'I was told that I must be more masculine,' she recalled. 'I should have been given affirmation and support, but instead I was told not to be who I am.'

Asked if she knew of any conversion therapists who actually practice in Seattle, Gonzalez acknowledged there was not much Seattle-specific data, but she noted that 'nationally one on three LGBTQ people may experience some form of conversion therapy, and there's no reason to think Seattle is an exception.'

As if to prove Gonzalez's point, two conversion therapists testified against Gonzalez's resolution during the committee's public comment period. They were met with icy silence from committee members and supporters of the measure in the council chambers.

They were refuted by testimony from local activists, including SGN publisher George Bakan, who labeled conversion therapy 'torture.'

Martin Luther King County Labor Council Executive Secretary Nicole Grant, who was at the committee meeting to testify on another measure favored by local unions, also took part of her time to condemn conversion therapy and urge passage of the resolution.

Supporting her legislation, Gonzalez told the committee, 'Not only has [conversion therapy] been discredited as ineffective but it has also proven to be dangerous and damaging to those who undergo treatment with the intent of changing their sexual orientation or gender identity.'

Both the Washington State Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association have condemned conversion therapy as unscientific and potentially dangerous.

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Conversion therapy ban goes to City Council August 1

Unanimous support in committee

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